Reckless driving in Virginia is a CRIME-not a traffic infraction. It can be a misdemeanor or a felony and will remain on a driver’s permanent criminal record and cannot be expunged.
Reckless Driving in Virginia
Reckless driving under Va. Code §46.2-852 is committed when a person drives a motor vehicle recklessly or at a speed or in a manner that endangers the life, limb, or property of another person.
For purposes of a reckless driving in Virginia charge under Va. Code §46.2-852, a person behaves recklessly when he disregards the consequences of his acts by driving a motor vehicle with an indifference to the safety of life, limb, or property of another.
Reckless driving in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-852 is frequently charged after the driver was involved in an accident. The police officer who responds to the scene determines who is at fault and charges that driver with reckless driving. However, the mere fact that there was an accident does not itself prove reckless driving in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-852. The Commonwealth is still required to prove that the accused engaged in reckless conduct.
Difference Between Reckless Driving and Traffic Infractions in Virginia
Reckless driving in Virginia is a crime. As a result, a conviction will give a driver a permanent criminal record. Unlike speeding tickets and other traffic infractions, a driver CANNOT pre-pay a fine for a Virginia reckless driving charge. The driver MUST come to court. Failure to appear in court could result in an ADDITIONAL criminal charge.
Proof of Reckless Driving in Virginia
To convict an offender of reckless driving in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-852, the Commonwealth must prove that the offender drove a motor vehicle in a reckless manner. A person commits reckless driving in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-852 when he:
- a motor vehicle
- on a highway in the Commonwealth
- in a manner that endangers the life, limb or property or another
The Commonwealth must prove that the offender was driving the motor vehicle to convict him of reckless driving in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-852. This is usually proven through testimony of the officer who initially stopped the driver.
Motor vehicle is defined in Va. Code §46.2-100 as “every vehicle as defined in this section that is self-propelled or designed for self-propulsion except as otherwise provided in this title. Any structure designed, used, or maintained primarily to be loaded on or affixed to a motor vehicle to provide a mobile dwelling, sleeping place, office, or commercial space shall be considered a part of a motor vehicle. Except as otherwise provided, for the purposes of this title, any device herein defined as a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, or moped shall be deemed not to be a motor vehicle.”
Highway is defined in Va. Code §46.2-100 as “the entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel in the Commonwealth, including the streets and alleys, and, for law-enforcement purposes, (i) the entire width between the boundary lines of all private roads or private streets that have been specifically designated “highways” by an ordinance adopted by the governing body of the county, city, or town in which such private roads or streets are located and (ii) the entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place used for purposes of vehicular travel on any property owned, leased, or controlled by the United States government and located in the Commonwealth.”
Endangers Life, Limb, or Property of Another Person
The Commonwealth must prove the offender drove in a manner than endangered the life, limb or property of another person to convict him of reckless driving in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-852.
Penalty for Reckless Driving in Virginia Under Va. Code §46.2-852
Reckless driving in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-852 can be a misdemeanor or a felony. It is punished with jail (or prison) high fines, driver’s license suspension, and DMV demerit points. Additionally, if the court believes that the offense was alcohol-related, it may order the driver to complete the Virginia ASAP program.
Reckless driving in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-852 is generally a Class 1 misdemeanor. It is punished with jail, fines and court costs, driver’s license suspension, DMV demerit points, and possible enrollment in the Virginia ASAP. There are also increased penalties for reckless driving in Virginia if the offender was texting while driving or committed felony reckless driving.
Jail: A conviction for reckless driving in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-852 is punished with up to 12 months in jail.
Fines: A driver can be fined up to $2500 if convicted of a Virginia reckless driving charge under Va. Code §46.2-852. The driver will also be required to pay court costs.
Driver’s License Suspension: A driver’s license can be suspended for 10 days up to 6 months if he is convicted of reckless driving in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-852. The driver may apply for a restricted driver’s license, allowing him to drive to certain places during the period of license suspension. Driving in violation of these restrictions can result in a driving on suspended license charge under Va. Code §46.2-301 (Va. Code §46.2-393(B)). A Commercial Driver’s License (or CDL) holder, however, cannot apply for a restricted license if his license is suspended for a Virginia reckless driving conviction under Va. Code §46.2-852.
DMV Demerit Points: The DMV will add 6 demerit points to the driving record of anyone convicted of reckless driving in Virginia.
VASAP Referral: If the court believes that the Virginia reckless driving charge was alcohol-related, it may order the driver to complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (Virginia ASAP) (Va. Code §46.2-392).
Texting while Driving: If the offender was using a handheld personal communication device to send or read a text message or email during the commission of this offense, he will pay a minimum fine of $250 (Va. Code §46.2-868(C)). Using a handheld communication device to send or read a message is also a separate traffic infraction under Va. Code §46.2-1078.1. It is commonly referred to as texting while driving. In some circumstances, a driver can be convicted of both reckless driving and texting while driving under Va. Code §46.2-1078.1 and will have a mandatory minimum fine for both the texting while driving conviction and the reckless driving conviction.
Felony Reckless Driving: Reckless driving in Virginia can sometimes be a felony. If the offender was driving without a valid operator’s license due to a suspension or revocation for a moving violation and caused the death of another person as a result of the reckless driving, he will be charged with a Class 6 felony (Va. Code §46.2-868(B)). This offense is punished with up to 5 years in prison, a fine up to $2500, and driver’s license revocation for 1 year.
Other Consequences of a Reckless Driving in Virginia Under Va. Code §46.2-852
In addition to the immediate penalties resulting from a conviction for reckless driving in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-852, there could be many additional, collateral consequences. Insurance premiums will likely increase, educational and employment opportunities could be impacted due to a new criminal record, security clearances could be in jeopardy, and there can be immigration consequences for anyone who is not a United States citizen.
It is important to contact a Virginia reckless driving lawyer as soon as possible to review options for, consequences of, and possible defenses to a charge of reckless driving in Virginia. If a conviction cannot be avoided, a Virginia reckless driving lawyer can help to obtain the best possible outcome.